The Lassithi region, located in the east of Crete, is popular with visitors to the island, but at the same time retains its original beauty. Ancient ruins, natural monuments, monasteries - here everyone will find something interesting for themselves. What is worth seeing in Lassithi and where to spend time?
Spinalonga Island is one of the main attractions not only of Lassithi, but of the whole of Crete. Its history began in the 16th century, when the Venetians built a fortress on the island. For many years, Spinalonga was under the control of the Turks, and then a leper colony was located on it. The tragic and eventful fate of the island attracts hundreds of tourists every day. On Spinalonga, the same Venetian fortress was well preserved (it offers a view of the Mirabello Bay), as well as houses in which lepers lived, a Byzantine church. Some buildings can be visited to see the personal belongings of the inhabitants of Spinalonga that have already become exhibits.
How to get there: Boats depart from the coastal village of Plaka and Elounda, as well as boats from Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga
The cave of Milatos has a special meaning for the Cretans. In the 19th century, hundreds of local residents were killed here - this was one of the impetuses for the beginning of the liberation movement from Turkish rule. In memory of the tragic events, a chapel was built inside the cave. In addition to it, Milatos is famous for its stalagmites and stalactites in the form of columns that divide the cave into several halls.
How to get there: drive in the direction of Malia and then turn off following the signs for the village of Milatos. The cave is nearby. You can park your car and walk another 200 m to the cave
Additional information: it is worth stopping by the village of Milatos. It is notable for its old houses and traditional cafes.
The fertile and green plateau of Lassithi is one of the main natural treasures of Crete with amazing landscapes. In addition to species, it is famous for its products: high-quality olive oil, pears, almonds and cherries. And Lassithi is also associated with windmills , of which there are hundreds here. They have become a symbol of the plateau: some have been abandoned, others have been restored and adorn Lassithi.
On the territory of the plateau, it is worth visiting Diktey cave, in which, according to local legend, Zeus was born. It is notable for stalactites and stalagmites. Though the cave is quite popular among the guests of Crete, the ancient Minoan settlement of Karfi has been studied very little. It takes 30 minutes to get there. Numerous Minoan artefacts have been found in the excavation area. They are excibited at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum (room 11).
How to get there: there are guided tours on the Lassithi plateau. You can independently drive from Heraklion along the National Road, moving east and turning inland near Malia
Palace of Zakros
Fans of walking along the ancient ruins in Lassithi will definitely not be disappointed. After all, here is the smallest of the Minoan palaces - Zakros. It was built later than other complexes, so it is well preserved. Entering the excavation area, you can see the central courtyard, several pools, which in the time of the Minoans were intended for ritual ablutions, a ceremonial hall, a stone bench and the ruins of workshops.
Getting there: Zakros is located 35 km from Sitia. The easiest way to get there is by renting a car. You can also take a bus to Kato Zakros. Travel time is about 1 hour
Toplou is one of the largest and most important abodes in Crete. It owns a large territory, thanks to which it preserves the beauty of the surrounding landscapes. The monastery was founded in the 15th century and later reconstructed by the Venetians. From the outside, it resembles a fortress, different from other monasteries of the island. Toplou has a museum with a large collection of Byzantine icons and engravings, gilded crosses and manuscripts. Icons made by representatives of the Cretan icon-painting school and Athos monks are considered the most valuable.
How to get there: by car on the National Road, following the signs. Tourists often combine a trip to Toplou with a visit to the famous Vai beach.
Additional information: the monastery is open daily, from 9:00 to 18:00
Please note: in the Toplou Monastery it is worth buying wine and olive oil produced here - both products are of high quality.
Fortress Barracks (Sitia)
Sitia is one of the most visited cities in Lassithi. Its symbol was the Kazarma fortress, built by the Byzantines and perfected by the Venetians. The barracks is protected by massive walls and more than once rescued the inhabitants of the city. Today, on the territory of the fortress, you can see the watchtowers and attend cultural events: exhibitions, concerts and performances are held in the Barracks all year round.
How to get there: by bus from Heraklion to Sitia or by car, heading east on the National Road
Additional information: the fortress is open daily (except Monday), from 8:30. In summer it is open until 19:30, in the low season - until 15:00
The Lassithi region has preserved many traces of ancient civilizations. Gournia is one of those places. This Minoan city was only discovered in the 20th century. Then among the finds of archaeologists were the residence of the ruler, a small palace on top of a hill, a sanctuary, a market, the ruins of stone houses and the remains of 2-meter walls. The structure of Gournia with cobbled streets is well preserved. Walking along them, you can admire the views of the sea and imagine the life of the settlement during the time of the Minoans. The history of Gurnia is shrouded in mystery. Until now, no one knows why it was abandoned and destroyed. Perhaps for the same reason that led to the fall of other palace complexes in Crete.
How to get there: get to Agios Nikolaos from Heraklion by bus, and then rent a car. Gournia is located 18 km from the city
Additional information: Gournia is open daily (except Monday), from 8:00 to 15:00
Another ancient city in Lassithi is Lato. Modern Agios Nikolaos is actually built on its ruins. Doria Lato and its two acropolises were located between two hills, from which an excellent view of the Mirabello Gulf opens. Excavations on the territory of Lato began in 1900. Today you can see the main entrance, the stairs to the Agora, the amphitheater, the remains of residential buildings, sanctuaries and workshops. Wonderfull panoramic views are another reason to visit Lato.
How to get there: by bus or car to Agios Nikolaos, then another 15 minutes by car (in the direction of the village of Kritsa).